Your Sponsoring Partner is the person who recommends you for partnership, he or she is a crucial member of your support team. If this relationship has broken down or is weak, your partnership ambitions may be effectively blocked at your firm. This is the most important person you need in your corner.

Don’t have your sponsoring partner’s backing to go for partner? Then you are unlikely to make it onto partner track, let alone get long or shortlisted to make partner. In this article, mostly taken from an extract from Poised for Partnership, I discuss some tips to strengthen this core relationship.

How to get them to recommend you for partner

Your sponsoring partner is going to be the person who recommends that you get developed or invested in to make partner. If they don’t think you have the ability or potential to make partner, then it’s never going to happen. Unfortunately so many of us fail to ask our sponsoring partner to support us to make partner in the right way. Just doing a straight ask in an appraisal such as:

I want to make partner. What do I need to do to get there?

rarely works. It rarely works because if you have to ASK to make partner, then you are demonstrating that you are not ready. I’m not being flippant here. Your partners need to know that you are thinking, feeling and acting like a partner BEFORE they will recommend you be put forward for partner. This means knowing that making partner is actually being given a slice of the firm rather than just another promotion. Therefore, you need your actions to do the talking not your words. After all words are cheap. How are you showing to your sponsoring partner that you are thinking about building a practice not just winning a collection of clients? How are you building the team behind you to free you up for more business development responsibilities or leadership/management responsibilities?

One of the best ways to show you are thinking the right way is to take in a draft business plan or business development plan to your sponsoring partner and get their views and feedback on it.

Be aware of their personal agendas

Every partner in a firm is constantly juggling multiple agendas: their personal agenda, the firm’s agenda, other partners’ agendas and their team members’ agendas. Not all of these agendas may be aligned! Therefore, you need to find out what is motivating them and what behind-the-scenes stress or dramas they may be managing. The more you can align your agenda with what they want and need, the easier it will be to have their backing.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Far too many professionals worry about being completely open and honest about their career aspirations and concerns with their Sponsoring Partner. Generally, the more open you can be, the easier it is for your Sponsoring Partner to fully support you and help to remove the road blocks in your way. Aim to sit down with your Sponsoring Partner at least quarterly to have a chat about how both of you think things are going. This doesn’t need to be a long chat; 10 minutes may be all it takes.

Know how to manage them

Managing upwards is an important skill within a partnership. Make sure you know how they like to work, take decisions and receive information. Then ensure that you fit your style to communicate with them in their preferred style and give them information in a format that suits them.

Find ways to help them

Having a very supportive team member who you can rely on, just makes a team leader’s life so much easier. Your aim is to become that team member for your Sponsoring Partner. How can you find small or big ways to help them?

In summary

Your Sponsoring Partner is your main advocate for your partnership ambitions. Fail to build a strong relationship with your Sponsoring Partner and your career may stall permanently.